Five Things I Learned at NaNoWriMo

1. The first verse of the Major General song from Pirates of Penzance.
2. There is a point of exhaustion which even three consecutive cups of coffee cannot overcome.
3. People who do not use contractions when they speak sound really, really weird.
4. Outlines aren’t everything.
5. I can write 50,000 words in less than 30 days.

I finished my NaNoWriMo project yesterday afternoon. Hooray! It was very cool to get my winner badge. It was even cooler that the whole thing is finished (okay, except for major editing and revisions on the rough draft).

At the very beginning, NaNoWriMo was easy. I had a very basic outline (about 1 sentence/chapter). The second week was harder. Then, due to the rules of the world created in the earlier chapters, the characters could not actually do what I had wanted them to do in the outline. So I took a detour. I never made it back to the main highway. That part (3rd week) was hard because I had no idea what the characters were going to do or why. Then I got to the end of the story. At 42,008 words. I went back and added some scenes, but was still about 5,000 words short. So I added an epilogue. I think the epilogue is really the first three chapters of the next book. Two of my strategies to pump up word count were to not use contractions and to tag every single line of dialogue. Those are two things you should not do unless you have a really, really good reason, because you will just have to go back and undo them later.

The BRIGHT side of NaNoWriMo: It forces you to gag your inner editor and lock him/her in a closet and just “let the wild man run free.” It is kind of like brainstorming – maybe some of the ideas are unusable at the end, but you do come up with some interesting things, things you might not have thought of if you were leisurely typing away, carefully crafting your sentences and sticking to your detailed outline. That is very liberating. You end up with at least part of a first draft for a novel.

The DARK side of NaNoWriMo: It forces you to go for word count, so instead of trying to say the most with the least number of words, you tend to say the least with the most number of words. It is hard. There is about the same amount of sleep deprivation as there is having a brand new baby. It is hard.
You sometimes have to pass on fun things. You tend to let things slide more than usual. Did I mention that it is hard?

I think that all aspiring novelists should do NaNoWriMo at least once. I am pretty sure I will not do it every year from now on, but I might do it again sometime. Now I have to try to go and catch up on all the things I neglected while I was NaNoWriMo-ing.